Sunday, May 28, 2006

Le Mouton
(snapshot of life in Senegal)

- The Tabaski holiday soon was upon us. In the days leading up to the holiday, the streets of Dakar bustled with mouton – strapping, snow-white, freshly brushed. A car would drive by with mouton tied to the roof, muck like skis or a kayak would be in Colorado. Tailor shops scurried to keep up with the demand for holiday boubous for the occasion. A downtown nightclub even announced a contest for the occasion: Gagnez votre mouton! Technically, a Muslim could sacrifice a lesser animal, even a chicken, but most Senegalese would have none of that. Money saved throughout the year was splurged, loans even taken out.

On the Sunday morning of the feast, the streets fell eerily silent. The men prayed at the mosques, the women swept off the porches and patios, hosed down the beasts.Alhassane*, Madame, our former host family and other associates all invited us to the proceedings. An animal sacrifice. We hesitated. Michelle* was a vegetarian, and I a queasy wimp who preferred to keep a wide mental berth between my steak and its source of origin.

“I cannot do the ram,” I ultimately decided after days of deliberation.

“I understand,” Madame responded quite sympathetically. “It’s a bit different of an experience for those not accustomed. We’ll prepare a plate of food for you to pick up later.”

Michelle and I fled to the Hotel Sofitel that morning. In the cab we averted our eyes and blocked our ears, fearing we would not reach the toubab refuge before the slaughter. Yet once there, lounging poolside, a more disturbing sight greeted us: French men in Speedos. “The horror! The horror!” Michelle shrieked when she sat up and removed her eyeshade to face these Speedos at eye level.

“We should have gone with the ram,” we reflected.

(* "noms-de-blog" used for privacy purposes)

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